Beyond the huge mosque, is the civil area of Fatehpur Sikri in which the palaces and pavilions rise? Used by Akbar as a residence and as official buildings in which it received foreign visitors and met with its advisors, today they are the highlight of the city visit. A warning goes ahead: calling it the abandoned city – it was abandoned in 1585 – many of these buildings do not know for sure what use they had. The guides move between conjectures and pure imagination, depending on how official they are.
Jodha Bai’s Palace
The palace Jodha Bai is the greatest of all Fatehpur Sikri and the first one is coming from the mosque. It was part of the harem and, in theory, was the residence of the imperial princess Mariam-uz-Zamani. In a square way, it mixes the Hindu style in the columns – Mariam-uz-Zamani was Hindu -, the Islamic in the domes – the religion of Akbar – and the Persian in the blue of its tiles.
After visiting the mosque and this palace, we had already more than compensated for the “bad time” of climbing up to the monumental city in full sun and loaded with backpacks. By the way, there was no deposit at the train station were to leave them when we visited Fatehpur Sikri, but it is possible to rent a hotel room for a few hours and leave luggage inside while touring the abandoned city palaces.
The Christian wife’s palace is also known as Maryam’s house. Despite Akbar’s religious openness, there are many doubts that he really had a Christian wife. Some legends say that she was a Portuguese woman, although others speak of her being from Goa – a Portuguese colony. The interior paintings, Birbal Bhavan, make the small building worth a visit.
Panch Mahal: Emperor’s House Of Cards
The architecture of the Panch Mahal, also called Badger, resembles a house of cards: a five-story building that decreases in size in height. As if this were not enough, it is only the columns that support the upper floors, as if it were cards from a deck. Columns ranging from 84 on the ground floor to only 4 in the last kiosk, where the emperor sat.
Originally, there were no walls, but there were lattices that allowed the emperor’s women, who lived in the Panch Mahal, to see without being seen. Don’t look for lattices because they are gone, they were probably stolen.
The Private Courtroom, Diwan-I-Khas
After surprising ourselves with a kiosk on the top floor of the Panch Mahal, meeting four of them – one in each corner – in the Diwan-I-Khas, the private courtroom, was almost expected.
In this building, Emperor Akbar met with his advisors and the way he did it was, at least, curious. A column that gains width as it raises is in the center of the building. At the top the emperor sat and from there came four bridges, one at each corner of the building, where the counselors sat. Not only did they maintain the balance of government … also the physical one! Yes, because the height at which one and others sat is not small.
More Civil Buildings to See In Fatehpur Sikri
After marveling at these buildings, we still had a few more.
- The Treasury and the Astrologer’s Kiosk, with Jain style decoration on its entrances: sea monsters in the Treasure and snake-shaped carvings in the astrologer’s Kiosk.
- The public hearing room, Diwan-I-Am, where the emperor administered justice “without severity or ill will” … or so it puts in the inscription.
- The Anup Talao ornamental pool, with a central platform connected to the courtyard by four bridges as in the Diwan-I-Khas.
- The Rumi Sultana, with carvings on ceilings and walls.
- The Khawabgah, the house of dreams, similar to the Panch Mahal although with only two floors. They were the emperor’s rooms overlooking the pool and which is possible to access and climb.
- The Haramsara, which is unknown if it was used as a stable for horses, camels, and elephants or as a service accommodation.
How to Get To Fatehpur Sikri
We arrived at Fatehpur Sikri almost by chance. I explain myself: we wanted to visit the ancient capital of the Mughal Empire, but we thought that the train we were traveling on would not stop there. We were going from Sawai Madhopur – Ranthambore, the house of the Bengal tiger – to Agra. Our idea was that, once in Agra, we would have to look for a bus that would take us to Fatehpur Sikri. Until, at one of the many train stops, we saw that we were at Fatehpur Sikri station and decided to get off! So yes, it can be reached by train. Of course, there were no rickshaws, nor did anyone try to sell anything, at least when it was us, which made us think it was not the usual way to arrive.
The exit of the city was as we had initially thought: by bus to Agra. More comfortable than by train, because the train station is in the lower part and the ascent to the monumental area brings them, while the bus stop is very close to the palace and there is no cost to punish the legs.
The bad thing is that the frequency and compliance with schedules are not his forte. Watch out because you probably have to go to the “other station” which is nothing more than a point on the road that connects Fatehpur Sikri with Agra where the buses stop. We would not be able to say where it was or even if we were living in it … we rode a tuk-tuk that took us there.
The victorious city has come back to life with the arrival of running water and tourist pipes. Be sure to include Fatehpur Sikri in your tour of India.